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Introduction to Jobsite Lighting

Lighting your jobsite properly increases worker efficiency and safety. Find out how to light your next job.

Ensuring that a construction jobsite is well-lit is critical for two reasons:

  1. It is essential to remain compliant with numerous laws and regulations.
  2. It increases the productivity and safety of the workers.

From improving visibility in the shade or dark areas, to ensuring workers can work in a well-lit area at night, there are many different reasons why you may need jobsite lighting.


The Importance of Jobsite Lighting – Safety & OSHA Standards

The first place to start when considering jobsite lighting is the regulations set forth by government agencies, most notably the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). There are many conditions that can reduce visibility, with nighttime operations being the most obvious. However, overcast days, rain, and fog can also affect visibility. 

When visibility is impaired, it makes the jobsite a much more dangerous place to work. Workers may be more focused on completing their tasks and less on seeing people around them. Having adequate lighting (as well as high-visibility apparel) can help ensure that workers notice each other on the jobsite. It also helps them to see obstacles and problems before encountering them.

Nighttime tends to be darker than the other conditions, but these other conditions have their own unique challenges. For example, rain makes jobsites more slippery and makes surfaces more reflective as the light hits the water. Fog is particularly difficult because light doesn’t really improve visibility, which is why it is often best not to work under conditions with a thick fog.

Hi-Vis Apparel Can Help 

When working at night or in low visibility conditions, it is important to ensure that hi-vis apparel is provided to everyone on site for their safety. Hi-vis apparel includes bright colors and reflective materials to make a person highly visible under jobsite lighting.

This specially-designed clothing, garment components, and accessories increase a person’s visibility. One of the most common safety components is retroreflective tape that works similar to reflection lights on bicycles. Hi-vis clothing is manufactured to maximize the amount of light reflected and sent back to the light emitting source.

Setting the Standard for Hi-Vis Safety Apparel

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) is the authority on the design and performance requirements for hi-vis safety clothing and accessories.

Requirement are set for: color, physical properties, and minimum background areas, retroreflective and combined-performance materials plus how the reflective areas should be designed. The information can be found in the Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) regulations and incorporated by reference in other standards.


Classes of Hi-Vis Clothing

Hi-vis clothing is broken into various performance classes, depending on the type of work you’re doing and the type of construction project. Each class has design specification minimums based on the worker’s environment and jobsite lighting.

Class 2 clothing is designed to make workers more easily visible when near a light source.

Class 3 clothing is designed with higher visibility and reflective materials than Class 2 clothing and provides greater visibility over more of the wearer’s body.

Class E is meant to cover the full body, including the legs and arms, often with greater protection against the cold and adverse weather conditions.

ANSI and ISEA also set specific requirements on how the garments and accessories are labelled including how to put on/take off, storage, clean, and service life as well as if the items are flame resistant or not.
Performance Classification Type of Clothing Worn By Required on Jobsites For Specific Color Required ANSI/ISEA Requirements
Class 2 Vests Road construction crews, Towing oeprators Areas of low visibility Bright yellow visibility, reduced visibility due to weather, traffic heavier than Class 1, and areas with traffic 25+ mph Minimum: 201 in (squared) reflective tape. Tape dimensions: 8.373 lin. ft. x 2” wide or 12.2 lin. ft. x 1 3/8” wide tape. Reflective stripes should be 1 or 2 stipe(s) 360º around the middle & above each shoulder.
Class 3 Sleeves, vests, pants Road workers, utility crews, site inspectors High traffic areas such as roads, highways where traffic exceeds 50 mph. Areas where workers should be as visible as possible. Bright yellow or orange with reflective tape as specified Minimum: 310 in (squared) reflective tape. Tape dimensions: 12.92 lin. ft. x 2” wide. Requires worker has FULL silhouette outline. Headlights approaching should easily see the worker. Reflective materials on arms and legs, exceeding Class 1 and Class 2 vest standards.
Class E Pants, bib overalls, shorts, gaiters N/A N/A Bright yellow or orange with reflective tape as specified Minimum: 465 in (squared) reflective tape. Tape dimensions: 109 lin. ft. x 2” wide. Items do not meet standards when worn individually. Wearing a Class E with a Class 2 or a Class 3 garment will classify the ensemble as Class 3. Meets standards ONLY when worn with Class 2 or Class 3 garment

The Variety of Lighting Standards and Types

OSHA documented most of the construction lighting standards in 29 CFR 1926.56. The standard details the minimum requirements for lighting different areas and conditions, such as general construction, indoors, tunnels, and first aid stations.

Requirements are set in foot-candles, referring to the amount of a light a single candle generates over a one-square-foot area; in other words, how much light a candle emits at a one-foot radius. Another existing standard is based on a lumen. One lumen is roughly equivalent to one foot-candle. The other measurement is the lux, which measures lighting distance in meters. One lux is the light cast at a distance of one meter from a candle.

According to OSHA, every jobsite requires at least five foot-candles of lighting. This translates to having a 150-watt bulb that is raised up to eight feet over the ground and spaced every 25 feet around the site. This is about 50% brighter than the 100 foot-candles of a cloudy day.

You can use the following chart to help establish the right lighting for different job areas.

Type of Project Range in Foot-Candles Range in Lux
Airports, Haul Roads, Parking Lots 0 to 5 0 to 54
Industrial Yards, Open Mining, Quarries 5 to 10 54 to 108
General Construction 10 to 15 108 to 162
Marine Locations 15 to 20 162 to 216
Loading Areas 20 to 30 216 to 324
Locations with Explosives 30 to 40 324 to 432
Sporting Locations 40 to 50 432 to 540
Keep in mind, this is mostly a reference guide. You will need to review the requirements for each specific jobsite area and type.

It is also required that all bulbs must be protected. In the event that a light is not recessed, a cage or guard must be put around the bulb to protect it from being broken. This will reduce the risk of the bulb breaking and spreading broken glass around the site, as well as ensure that people do not touch the source of the light.


Developing a Lighting Plan That Boosts Productivity

To ensure that your workers have adequate light to be productive and safe when working under darker conditions, you need to develop a jobsite lighting plan.

Since there are legal standards and requirements to ensure the safety of your staff, this article focuses on safety. However, lighting isn’t just about safety - without adequate lighting, your workers will be a lot less efficient. Keeping this in mind, there are probably going to be times where you will want to provide more light than is required so that your workers will be able to work more effectively.

If your crew is working at night, they already have several impediments to being efficient, such as working on a schedule when they are more likely to be tired. Giving them more light will help simulate the sun’s light to help keep them more awake and aware.

Here are the components you need to consider when developing an effective lighting plan that best supports your crew.

1. Map the Jobsite

Create a complete map of the jobsite and divide it into the different areas based on a few key factors:
  • The type of work and activities required to complete the work in different areas
  • The time of day when work will be done in the different areas
  • The regions that are more likely to have less light; some places may have more shade or will be enclosed faster, so they may require more lighting than other areas that will be in the sun
You can compare these regions to OSHA requirements to help you divide up your jobsite if you aren’t sure where to start.

2. Consider Your Lighting Options

Review the map and determine the best types of lighting for each area. Smaller projects may only need one type of lighting, but the larger the project, the more lighting types you will likely need. For example, under OSHA regulations, you should never use bulbs that emit less than 100 watts of light.

It’s also important to consider the surrounding area. If your construction site is near homes or residences, you’ll want to make sure that the lighting doesn’t adversely affect them.

Finally, you’ll need to start thinking about how your lighting will be powered. You don’t need to finalize that right away but be aware of what you have available to power your lights for the different parts of the jobsite.

3. Ensure You’re Compliant with OSHA, State, and Local Regulations

Before going any further, make sure to compare these different elements against OSHA regulations so that you can comply with them. This will help you make changes and decisions for the next few parts of your lighting plan.

Some local governments have specific requirements for the level of illumination. Make sure you’ve done your due diligence into the local and state regulations to guarantee that your lighting complies with these regulations too.

4. Start Choosing Different Lighting Types for Different Areas

Select the right lighting for each region. Some areas may need luminaries, light towers, and other light sources to make certain that the area is properly lit for work. Some locations may not need much additional lighting.

Another consideration to determining the right lighting is to follow best practices to minimize the glare from the different types of lighting.

5. Finalize the Plan

Once you’ve considered the different parts of your jobsite and the different lighting requirements for each one, you can start finalizing your plans. It is always best to err on the side of providing more light than is needed, and you will definitely need to minimize glare.

You may also have to make adjustments to your construction lighting plans. Things like your power sources can change some of your plans. As you start to get lighting in place, you should also do regular checks to make sure that they meet the minimum standards and guarantee that there is adequate lighting for each region.

Once all of the lighting is in place, you will need to consider different scenarios. Drivers will have different needs than workers who are walking around the jobsite and completing the tasks.

Make sure the final check includes verification of all applicable regulations and standards. Have a checklist to indicate how you meet these requirements.

Don’t forget to document any changes you make to your lighting plan. This will not only help you for future reference on a particular project, it can give you a quick reference for later if you have similar problem scenarios on future projects.
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